This is part of a larger discussion I am developing on how to remain human and sane when providing care to others. You can visit that at the top of the main page.
Too often when a person begins caring for a family member, a hyper-focus will be made to make certain the ill or elderly person is cared for in every way possible. As well-intentioned as this may be, such efforts inevitably lead to the collapse of the caregiver. Simply, if the caregiver does not take care of our self, our bodies, we wind up being of no value or use to the people to whom we are attempting to care for.
Thus, we need to look at what we need physically to be strong. By “strength”, I am not referring to what you need to lift a person up or carrying some bulky thing like oxygen tanks or a wheelchair or supplies. Instead, I am talking about the endurance that you need each day to successfully work through the responsibilities and efforts that need to be be addressed.
The effort that you undertake every day is going to be different day to day. One day it may be driving your parents all over God’s Creation to doctor’s appointments, labs, and physical therapy services. Another day it may be picking up supplies. Another day you may find yourself reconciling accounts or writing letters or updating and filing medical reports. Sone other day you may be cleaning the home and tidying up. Each day is going to require a different amount or effort and, with it, a different amount of strength. It is also going to require a different part of your body which includes your mind.
Strengthening your physique goes beyond what we eat or the amount of weight we bench press. It takes us past the number of miles that we walk, jog or bike. Instead, we need to begin with the number of hours we rest. We have all read or heard at some point that we need “eight hours of sleep.” The National Sleep Foundation has an entire chart (see below) on sleep based upon age.
There are others who claim that it seven hours may be better. There are still others who claim “it all depends.” In the case of several people whom I know, their approach is “sleep until you are no longer tired.”
In all cases, the ideas may sound great for some people and insane for others. Irrespective of all of them, there is one sure thing you will find yourself dealing with: not finding the time to get a full night’s sleep. This can come from anything and usually does. Many times people will say it is stress or worry, anxiety, whatever. The fact is, not getting enough sleep starts and stops with how we approach our lives and what we are doing in our lives.
The amount of sleep we obtain directly affects our strength whether it is spiritual, mental or physical. So take the time and get that sleep each and every night to prepare your self for each day ahead. Do not make the presumption that you will somehow “be okay” or that you will “make it through the day” by not getting enough sleep. But at the same time, you not make the mistake of over-sleeping either. Be smart about the sleep you take for yourself.
Your Health and Strength Training
If you are going to prepare yourself adequately for endurance, you are going to begin by actually working with your doctor to make certain you are in good physical health. Just starting to care for anyone without making certain you are okay does no one any good. So begin by getting that clean bill of health.
Once you get that approval, your next step is to identify the best possible trainer and dietician to help you remain healthy. Your trainer is critical so that you are able to build up the endurance you will need physically. Your dietician is essential to make certain you are able to address your body’s needs to maintain your health.
How You “Feel”
You will need endurance and the strength in your work as a caregiver. That will be both physical and mental. But you are going to need to be alert to how you feel. That is, you need to be aware of your health as much as you need to be aware of the person or people to whom you are giving care. It does you neither you nor those for whom you are a care-giver to ignore your health or think that “it’ll go away” or “it’s just a cold” or “it’s just because I’m tired.” If and when you feel yourself being different than when you feel healthy, get yourself to your primary care physician.
I note in another part of this discussion that you need to plan what you are going to be doing each day. That planning needs to include planning time for yourself, each day and every day. Use this time wisely to identify exactly how you feel, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and mentally.
Working Out and Out Working
Continuing the foregoing idea, the time for yourself needs to also be set aside for you to actually workout based on what your trainer recommends for you. But also plan enough time for yourself to go out and work. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can just kick back and do nothing each day until the next appointment for the family member you are giving care. You need to also be active in society and the broader world.
That means you need to identify employment for yourself. It means you need to balance between the needs of the home life you may have and time for yourself to keep yourself strong mentally. All of this is a matter of building and maintaining your physical strength.